Genres are tricky things. They grow, expand, and branch out to accommodate the inventive musicians who are kind enough to share their work with those who deign to describe it. The Last Bandoleros is a country group out of Nashville that can get down with rocking guitars and spice things up with norteño accordion and bass. The band is comprised of Jerry Fuentes (guitar and vocals), Derek James (also guitar and vocals), Diego Navaira (bass and vocals), and Emilio Navaira (drums and vocals). Their self-titled debut EP, written by all four, is out now. After touring abroad with Sting (yes, Sting), The Last Bandoleros continue their Crooked Little Halo Tour stateside for a couple more months.
The first track, “Maria,” begins with fast beats and guitar that means business. It’s a timeless sound, and the lyrics tell of an irresistible woman who has tired of the man who can’t get enough of her. She does it good, the guys sing, snarl, and insist. Guitar splashes into the opening of “Adios,” like paint on the concrete wall of a taqueria. Accordion pairs with the honky-tonk beat to create something lively and unique. Adios, you say you’re going away, you got another thing coming if you think I won’t say adios, you know I’m never gonna beg you to stay, sing the bandoleros in harmony, ready to move on, happen what may.
Acoustic strumming begins “Where Do You Go,” soon joined by a bass that could shake your fillings and vocals that could roast your chiles. The track moves forward with tenacity, insistently pulling at your feet in supplication to dance – or at least to wiggle. “Get Down” is heavy like Sunday morning barbacoa and light like cilantro. The vocals ooze and stretch like melted cheese, as the lyrics hint at unharnessed weekend fun after a week of dutiful deeds. Fulfilling the promise of the title, the guitar boogies with the accordion, while the drums and bass lead the show.
The listener is romanced in the opening of “I Don’t Want to Know,” with strings crying out with an intensity of emotion that can only be conveyed in music. As the other instruments join in, the song deepens and darkens, like a swimming hole where you can’t see the bottom. The lyrics, wallowing in the shadows, celebrate the light and dark that rests behind the eyeballs of every individual, unbeknownst to the rest of the world. The songwriting here is exquisite, and nihilistic, with lines such as, Creep in the night, hide in the daylight; run for your life, in the end it’s a dog fight. The sound is ominous and all-consuming, and it feels as though it ends much too soon.
Guitar as dirty and delicious as your most secret dreams powers “Take Me To It,” with bass that could distress your denim and a drum and accordion pairing that could incite movement in those fictional – and also those disturbingly real – characters who believe that dancing is somehow wrong. That kind of eschewing of the natural is what made all the aspartame adherents so ill. “Take Me To It” is a quick jolt of excitement, like the sound that alerts you to a text you are anxiously awaiting, or the sizzle of the first drips of fat when you are roasting a striated piece of meat.
The Last Bandoleros is an EP that crosses borders: from the humdrum to the exciting, the bitter to the sweet, and the mechanical to the electrical. (And it does so painlessly, without waiting and without uniformed officials asking you the same question, reworded three different ways.) It is a real treat to listen to bands like The Last Bandoleros, whose infectious sound serves as a testament to the fact that genres shall never define nor confine the art that musicians create to describe their world.
Expand your conceptualization of the construct of the country genre. Give The Last Bandoleros a listen, add them to your Music Library, and get ready to move.